Poker: Dalton finds his path blocked

BLOCKERS - cards which block your opponent - are a tempting concept at Omaha (the four card version of Hold 'em). If, for example, the first three cards of the flop show 9- 10-Q, and you happen to hold a couple of jacks in your hand, the chance of your opponent also holding a jack to make a straight is greatly reduced.

It follows that you do not need to have an 8 or a king in your hand to go with one of your jacks (in Omaha you have to play two cards from your hand). You can bet as if you had made a straight, on the assumption that your jacks block your opponent. He won't be able to call a big bet if he only has top pair, or even two pairs.

The concept is a good one, but it can come unstuck, as was demonstrated in the recent final of the Omaha tournament at the Victoria, in which 54 players were competing. After several hours play it came down to Surinder Sunar from Wolverhampton, and a lively Irish player, Chris Dalton. At one stage, he had twice as many chips as Sunar and looked likely to win.

On what turned out to be the final hand, Chris made a fair-sized bet before the flop, holding 6-7-J-J - not a great hand but at heads-up, a fair start. Surinder called. Out came the flop:

sf1201 Now Chris's two jacks are the blockers. It looked an ideal moment to win a good- sized pot, so he stuck his money in. Surinder paused. As luck would have it, he also had a jack. He held 5-7-8-J, which made him a straight - but only the lower straight.

If Chris had J-K, he was winning. Surinder stood up and pushed his chips forward. The players turned their hands over. Chris's other two cards gave him no 'outs'.

From the outside, it is easy to criticise his play as too speculative. But against a player of Surinder's talent, it is no use just sitting still. 'I had the blockers,' lamented Chris afterwards. 'The only trouble is that there are four jacks in the deck.'